Promoting Test Driven Development with a Remote Team

21 hours 43 minutes ago

Happy Monday, readers!  I’m getting back on track with reader question Monday once again.  No more excuses about bad web hosting issues. Today’s question is about test driven development.  Specifically, it’s about test driven development when you’re trying to get a team to do it — a remote team.  Here’s the question (directed at me […]

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Erik Dietrich

DaedTech Digest: Hosting Woes and Unit Testing Studies

3 days 20 hours ago

Happy Friday, folks.  Time for another installment of the DaedTech digest, wherein I link out to a bunch of technical posts I’ve written for other sites. This week, I don’t have any specific personal narrative to relay, per se.  That’s largely because I’ve been working like a dog as we onboard additional clients to Hit […]

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Erik Dietrich

Those Brexit clichés explained

5 days 19 hours ago
EVER since February 2016, when David Cameron, the British prime minister, called a referendum on the UK leaving the EU, the debate has been clouded by catchphrases, similes and confusing metaphors. If you haven’t followed the debate religiously, or you are unfamiliar with British idioms, these may be mysterious.

If You Want to Matter in the Software Industry, Stop Being a Laborer

5 days 20 hours ago

Alright, first things first.  I’m going to do a bit of housekeeping.  My apologies for the sluggish performance of the site lately, and the occasional 500 errors you may have noticed.  My hosting company’s physical machine has been having some issues and they’re trying to figure out whether they can fix it in-situ or whether […]

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Erik Dietrich

The High Five: roses are red, violets are blue, five top searches for you

1 week 3 days ago

Roses are red,
Violets are blue.
Here are this week's top searches for you:
The Dow is down, but a rocket went up to the skies
We're staring deeply into our valentines' eyes
While the world’s best athletes go for the gold
We met the new Gerber baby, just one year old.
Now on to the trends, before my rhyme becomes drab—
All the data we use comes from Google News Lab.

Valentine’s Day

Between flowers, a big teddy bear, a beef jerky bouquet, Valentine’s Jordans and chocolate-covered strawberries, there’s something for everyone on the list of top-searched Valentine’s Day gifts.

New spokesbaby

One-year-old Lucas Warren became a celebrity this week when it was announced that he’s the first Gerber baby with Down Syndrome. Meanwhile, another baby made her debut in the limelight: Kylie Jenner’s daughter, Stormi. Other top searched babies this week were Nick Foles’ baby, Janet Jackson’s baby, and Khloe Kardashian’s baby.

All eyes on Pyeongchang

Figure skating is the most searched Olympic sport in 46 states. The outliers are Alaska and Montana (where snowboarding’s at the top), Nebraska (where curling reigns) and Minnesota (where ice hockey wins all).

Falcon Heavy

After his foray into space this week, search interest in “Elon Musk rocket” took off, and was 350 percent higher than interest in “Elon Musk car.” People searched for famous rockets—other than Falcon Heavy—this week, too: Flat-earther rocket, Saturn V rocket, Sea Dragon rocket and Soyuz rocket.

Ups and (Dow)ns

As the markets went on a rollercoaster, search interest in Dow Jones Industrial Average was 1,700 percent higher than search interest in NASDAQ, and people were searching for “stock market” 1,400 percent more than “economy.”

DaedTech Digest: Delays, Risk, Visualization and Gigantic Log Files

1 week 3 days ago

Another week in the books, marked, as always, by a DaedTech digest post.  Another week here in sunny San Diego, marked by a predictable mix of work and fun. On the work side, we’re building out our tech content agency at what feels like a fairly furious pace.  I suppose at some point, I may […]

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Erik Dietrich

Six ways Google can keep you up to speed in PyeongChang

1 week 5 days ago

Tomorrow thousands of athletes will come together in PyeongChang to represent their countries with the world as their audience. While the athletes are getting ready for the gold, we’re getting a few of our products ready, too. Here are six ways Google is helping you stay connected to what’s happening on the ground (and on the ice) during the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games:

1. Stay in the snow know with Google Search
When you search for the Winter Olympics, you’ll find the latest information about your favorite events at the top of Search results. You’ll be able to see your country’s rank in the race for gold medals, or dive into a specific sport to check out which athletes have won. When you’re not tuning into the Winter Games live, you can watch a daily recap video, see top news related to the Olympic Games, and find verified updates from official broadcasters around the world.2. Tune in with YouTubeStarting February 8, if you miss a competition, you can watch select Olympic Winter Games video highlights from official Olympic broadcasters on YouTube in more than 80 countries around the world including from NBCUniversal (USA), BBC (UK), NHK (Japan), France TV (France), and Eurosport (Rest of Europe). In the U.S., YouTube TV will also show NBCUniversal’s live coverage of the Olympic Winter Games. In India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Maldives and Nepal the Winter Games will be for the first time live and free on the Olympic Channel on YouTube.

3. Keep up with these apps on Google PlayDon’t miss a single jump (ski, axel, or otherwise) with these apps in the Google Play Store. Just download and follow along with the athletes and watch the action live:

4. Explore South Korea in Street View and Google EarthCheck out the new “sports” category in Google Earth Voyager with five stories about the Winter Games that take you from epic ski jumping destinations to theOlympic Torch relay. These travel itineraries will help you explore South Korea’s capital city, and on Street View, you can see the new imagery of stadiums, cities and towns close to PyeongChang.

5. Get your head in the game with the AssistantYour Google Assistant can help you stay up to date throughout the games. Curious about winners? Just say “Hey Google, who won women’s 1000 meter speed skating in the Olympics?” Rooting for a specific country? “Hey Google, how many medals does Iceland have in the Olympics?” You can even say “Hey Google, tell me a fun fact about the games in PyeongChang.” No matter how you’re asking—on your phone, speaker, TV or other enabled device—the Google Assistant can keep up with all the important Olympic details.

Plus, in the U.S., NBC is bringing an exclusive game to the Google Assistant across devices. It’s already live, so test your winter sports knowledge with dozens of trivia questions. Just say “Hey Google, play NBC Sports Trivia” to start your quest for Olympics’ trivia gold.

6. VR gets you closer to the actionStream more than 50 hours of NBCUniversal’s live coverage—from the Opening Ceremony to alpine skiing, ice hockey, figure skating, snowboarding, curling and more—in virtual reality by using your YouTube TV credentials to log in to the NBC Sports VR app, powered by Intel True VR. In Europe, multi-camera live VR coverage is available via the Eurosport VR app.

Let the games begin.

Freelance Tax Implications for Side Hustlers: How to Handle It

2 weeks ago

Alright, time for a reader question Monday post.  I’m sure nothing takes the edge off of the end of your weekend like me answering reader questions.  So, let’s do that.  I’ve talked before about taxes for people going fully independent and hanging our their shingles.  But this one is all about taxes for side hustlers. […]

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Erik Dietrich

The High Five: a peacock and other trends that showed off this week

2 weeks 3 days ago

When a woman’s attempt to board a United Airlines flight with her emotional support peacock was thwarted this week, the internet was up in feathers. Search interest in “emotional support peacock” flew 450 percent over “emotional support dog,” and people were also curious about whether they can bring hairspray, alcohol, batteries, perfume and candy on to a flight. And don’t exclude the other supportive animals—besides dog and peacock, top searched emotional support animals were duck, turkey and cat.  

Here are more top searches in this week's menagerie, with data from Google News Lab:

  • Black History Month:As Black History Month kicked off this week, Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Frederick Douglass, Jackie Robinson and Malcolm X were the most searched Black historical figures. 
  • Super Bowl (of chili): Bostonians and Philadelphians will cheer on opposite sides of the stadium, but their home states have one thing in common: chili is the most popular Super Bowl recipe. And you might expect that searches for “Super Bowl ad” spike every February, but the fast-typers among us also cause searches for “Superb Owl” to go up. What a hoot!
  • State of the Union:Taxes, jobs, MS-13, immigration and Mexico were the top searched terms during President Trump’s speech. On the day of the speech, searches for Joe Kennedy went up 2,100 percent, “longest State of the Union” went up 3,000 percent and and “fact check” went up 2,100 percent. 
  • Lie, cheat and Pass Go: Searches for “Monopoly Cheaters Edition release date” went up 350 percent after a new version of the game was announced, and it was searched 2,200 percent more than another popular edition: “Game of Thrones” Monopoly. 

DaedTech Digest: Bad Coding Standards and the CRAP Metric

2 weeks 4 days ago

Another Friday, another DaedTech Digest, another recording of me spraying words all over the internet.  Fun times, as always. Today (Thursday, at the time of writing), I went out to brunch.  This was sort of an accidental thing that happened.  We had someone come clean the condo we’re staying in here in San Diego, and […]

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Erik Dietrich

Software Craftsmanship as a Metaphor is a Career Glass Ceiling

2 weeks 5 days ago

Is software development a craft?  I think this might be a decently long post, so let’s come back to that, to journeyman idealists, and to some of the finer points of what counts as “software craftsmanship” a little later.  Before that, please indulge me in story time.  Or, backstory time, as it were. About 7 […]

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Erik Dietrich

A reintroduction to Google’s featured snippets

2 weeks 6 days ago

Sometimes when you do a search, you’ll find that there’s a descriptive box at the top of Google’s results. We call this a “featured snippet.” In this post—the first in a new series going behind-the-scenes on how Google Search works—we’ll explore when, where and why we provide featured snippets.

What is a featured snippet?Let’s start with a look at a featured snippet, in this case, one that appears for a search on “Why is the sky blue?

We call these featured snippets because unlike our regular web listings, the page’s description—what we call a “snippet”—comes first. With featured snippets, we reverse the usual format. We’re featuring the snippet, hence the “featured snippet” name. We also generate featured snippets in a different way from our regular snippets, so that they’re easier to read.

We display featured snippets in search when we believe this format will help people more easily discover what they’re seeking, both from the description and when they click on the link to read the page itself. It’s especially helpful for those on mobile or searching by voice.

Here are a few examples where featured snippets enhance the search experience by making it easier to access information from good sources, big and small:

Featured snippets aren’t just for written content. Our recently launched video featured snippets jump you directly to the right place in a video, such as for how to braid your own hair:

Featured snippets help with mobile and voice searchMobile search traffic has surpassed desktop traffic worldwide. And with the growth in voice-activated digital assistants, more people are doing voice queries. In these cases, the traditional "10 blue links" format doesn't work as well, making featured snippets an especially useful format.

Of course, we continue to show regular listings in response to searches along with featured snippets. That’s because featured snippets aren’t meant as a sole source of information. They’re part of an overall set of results we provide, giving people information from a wide range of sources.

People click on featured snippets to learn moreWhen we introduced featured snippets in January 2014, there were some concerns that they might cause publishers to lose traffic. What if someone learns all they need to know from the snippet and doesn’t visit the source site?

It quickly became clear that featured snippets do indeed drive traffic. That’s why publishers share tips on how to increase the chances of becoming one, because they recognize being featured in this way is a traffic driver.

When it comes to spoken featured snippets, we cite the source page in the spoken result and provide a link to the page within the Google Home app, so people can click and learn more:

We recognize that featured snippets have to work in a way that helps support the sources that ultimately makes them possible. That’s why we always take publishers into account when we make updates to this feature.

Working to improve featured snippetsThe vast majority of featured snippets work well, as we can tell from usage stats and from what our search quality raters report to us, people paid to evaluate the quality of our results. A third-party test last year by Stone Temple found a 97.4 percent accuracy rate for featured snippets and related formats like Knowledge Graph information.

Because featured snippets are so useful, especially with mobile and voice-only searches, we’re working hard to smooth out bumps with them as they continue to grow and evolve.

Last year, we took deserved criticism for featured snippets that said things like “women are evil” or that former U.S. President Barack Obama was planning a coup. We failed in these cases because we didn’t weigh the authoritativeness of results strongly enough for such rare and fringe queries.

To improve, we launched an effort that included updates to our Search Quality Rater Guidelines to provide more detailed examples of low-quality webpages for raters to appropriately flag, which can include misleading information, unexpected offensive results, hoaxes and unsupported conspiracy theories. This work has helped our systems better identify when results are prone to low-quality content. If detected, we may opt not to show a featured snippet.

Even when a featured snippet has good content, we occasionally appear to goof because it might not seem the best response to a query. On the face of it, it might not appear to respond to a query at all.

For example, a search for “How did the Romans tell time at night” until recently suggested sundials, which would be useless in the dark:

Left: Until recently, a search for “How did the Romans tell time at night” resulted in a featured snippet suggesting sundials. Right:We now provide a better response: water clocks.

While the example above might give you a chuckle, we take issues like this seriously, as we do with any problems reported to us or that we spot internally. We study them and use those learnings to make improvements for featured snippets overall. In this case, it led to us providing a better response: water clocks.

When near-matches can be helpfulAnother improvement we’re considering is to better communicate when we give you a featured snippet that’s not exactly what you searched for but close enough that it helps you get to the information you seek.

For example, the original “sundial” featured snippet above was actually a response for “How did Romans tell time.” We displayed this near-match then because we didn’t have enough confidence to show a featured snippet specifically about how Romans told time at night. We knew sundials were used by Romans to tell time generally, because so many pages discussed this. How they told time at night was less discussed, so we had less data to make a firm connection.

Showing a near-match may seem odd at first glance, but we know in such cases that people often explore the source of a featured snippet and discover what they’re looking for. In this case, the page that the featured snippet originally came from did explain that Romans used water clocks to tell time at night. We just didn't then have enough confidence then to display that information as a featured snippet.

We’re considering increasing the use of a format we currently employ only in some limited situations, to make it clearer when we serve a near-match. For example, we might display "How did Romans tell time?" above the featured snippet, as illustrated in the mockup below:

Our testing and experiments will guide what we ultimately do here. We might not expand use of the format, if our testing finds people often inherently understand a near-match is being presented without the need for an explicit label.

Improving results by showing more than one featured snippetSometimes, a single featured snippet isn’t right for every question. For example, “how to setup call forwarding” varies by carrier. That’s where a recent feature we launched lets you interactively select a featured snippet specific to your situation. In the example below, you can see how it allows people to quickly locate solutions from various providers:

Another format coming soon is designed to help people better locate information by showing more than one featured snippet that’s related to what they originally searched for:

Showing more than one featured snippet may also eventually help in cases where you can get contradictory information when asking about the same thing but in different ways.

For instance, people who search for “are reptiles good pets” should get the same featured snippet as “are reptiles bad pets” since they are seeking the same information: how do reptiles rate as pets? However, the featured snippets we serve contradict each other.

This happens because sometimes our systems favor content that’s strongly aligned with what was asked. A page arguing that reptiles are good pets seems the best match for people who search about them being good. Similarly, a page arguing that reptiles are bad pets seems the best match for people who search about them being bad. We’re exploring solutions to this challenge, including showing multiple responses.

"There are often legitimate diverse perspectives offered by publishers, and we want to provide users visibility and access into those perspectives from multiple sources,” Matthew Gray, the software engineer who leads the featured snippets team, told me.

Your feedback wantedFeatured snippets will never be absolutely perfect, just as search results overall will never be absolutely perfect. On a typical day, 15 percent of the queries we process have never been asked before. That’s just one of the challenges along with sifting through trillions of pages of information across the web to try and help people make sense of the world.

Last year, we made it easier to send us feedback in cases where a featured snippet warrants review. Just use the “feedback” link at the bottom of a featured snippet box. Your feedback, along with our own internal testing and review, helps us keep improving the quality of featured snippets.

We'll explore more about how Google Search works in future posts in this series. In the meantime, you can learn more on our Inside Google Search and How Search Works sites and follow @searchliaison on Twitter for ongoing updates.